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Putting the P in CRM: Partner relationship management

Where CRM deals primarily with the sharing of information internally with sales, marketing and customer service, PRM focuses on the external partner, the supplier and distributor.

According to Bob Thompson, creator of and a leading voice in relationship technologies, Partner Relationship Management (PRM) is "a channel strategy to help you know where your indirect channel partners fit." Where CRM deals primarily with the sharing of information internally with sales, marketing, accounting, etc. PRM focuses on the external partner the supplier and distributor.

Thompson spoke with's Site Editor, Carol Parenzan Smalley, to discuss CRM, PRM, and the future of relationship management as applied to both areas:

SearchCRM: On the search site, Partner Relationship Management (PRM) has its own area. Can you explain how CRM and PRM are both related and different?

Thompson: CRM is a business strategy for creating long-term, loyal, and profitable relationships with customers. PRM strives to accomplish the same thing with channel partners intermediaries in the relationship between a company and its customers. So PRM is really a subset of CRM; based on the same principles but focused on the specific needs of channel partners.

SearchCRM: In your response, you used the term "channel partners." What does this term represent?

Thompson: In the IT industry, a channel partner could be a reseller, integrator, or consultant. In other industries, brokers, agents, and distributors are channel partners. Essentially any intermediary involved in the direct or indirect sale is a channel partner.

SearchCRM: What are some of the benefits of PRM for channel partners?

Thompson: PRM technology can provide more useful information, tools, and other services to help them sell and service their customers more effectively, thus creating more profitable long-term relationships.

SearchCRM: There is a current trend within CRM to go eCRM, with Web-based solutions. Do you see something similar happening with PRM?

Thompson: Yes, in fact virtually all PRM applications are web-based (ePRM) because of the need to support a multi-enterprise environment. Typically only a browser is required.

SearchCRM: Who are some of the key PRM vendors?

Thompson: Some of the key "pure-play" PRM vendors include Partnerware, Allegis, ChannelWave, Foundation Network, and OnDemand. CRM vendors like Pivotal and Siebel Systems are increasingly entering the PRM market with add-on modules. More eCommerce-oriented vendors such as Click Commerce, InfoNow, and Comergent are also important, and there are some specialty vendors like MarketSoft (lead management) and Elateral (digital collateral) that can play valuable roles as PRM technology providers.

SearchCRM: As a follow up to a previous question, do you see the same shake up within PRM that is occurring in CRM, with mergers, acquisitions and partnerships forming?

Thompson: Yes, it's already happening. This is one of my predictions for 2001 that I wrote about in a recent article. See

SearchCRM: Bob, I am certain the registered users of would like to learn more about this growing specialty area of CRM. Would you like to spend some time with them via a Live Expert Q&A session?

Thompson: I look forward to it.

Bob Thompson is the founder and president of Front Line. He publishes a PRM newsletter called ePartner Insights. His company also recently launched a portal on customer relationship management He will be a Live Expert Q&A guest with on Thursday, October 12, 2000 at 12 noon (Eastern). You can participate in this live event by entering the auditorium

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